Torment: Tides of Numenera Update #37: Alpha Systems Tests, Oasis of M'ra Jolios

A new Kickstarter update has been published for Torment: Tides of Numenera, one that covers quite a lot of ground. By far the two things I found most news-worthy though, were the team's plans for Alpha Systems Tests that will start rolling out next year, with which the developers will gather very select feedback on the game's core systems, and the new lore update on the Oasis of M'ra Jolios.

First, a detailed description of what the Alpha Systems Tests will be, for those who have backed at a tier high enough to have access to them:

Alpha Systems Test

Early-ish next year, we intend to have the first alpha systems test (AST). These are not exactly a common part of current game development, so I wanted to explain them a bit. Each AST will be a very limited build (version of the game) that highlights particular elements and is released to our alpha systems testers for their feedback. For example, the first one will likely focus on the Conversation UI. It won't include any actual game world or characters. What it will have is a reasonably complete implementation of the Conversation UI, along with a single conversation that will be fairly involved, but still only take a couple minutes to play through.

The ASTs will hopefully be interesting for the testers, but they are by no means game demos or beta tests. To be blunt, these ASTs are for the benefit of the game, not those who play it. Alpha systems testers should expect them to be be ugly (or, more accurately, bland), with clearly placeholder graphics for anything that's not central to the AST. (For example, the Conversation UI AST will have candidate final art for that interface, since its aesthetics contribute to the overall conversation gameplay experience.) They may have some bugs, though in general we're looking more for the alpha systems testers to be providing feedback, not finding bugs.

Because of the development goals of the ASTs, we're not planning to announce them in advance while we have our own internal deadlines for these things, I don't want the team to feel compelled to make compromises to meet publicly announced expectations or deadlines. I want the ASTs to be whatever they should be, whenever they should be, as will be best for Torment. Also, while we'll be mentioning the ASTs a bit in these Kickstarter Updates, we will generally communicate more about them through Tumblr and directly to the eligible backers (i.e., those whose tier included AST access (Artifact Collector and higher Tiers), or who chose it as an add-on).

And an excerpt on the Oasis:

The underwater city of M'ra Jolios has existed since the beginning of recorded time, and possibly much longer than that but no one knows who built it or why.

It is home to the Ghibra Ny'kul, the collective name for a variety of water-breathing races from all over the Ninth World. The Ghibra believe M'ra Jolios was created by their god, and that they were placed in the Ninth World to bring "water and life" to the Ninth World. It was this worldview that guided their meeting with the first Jerboans hundreds of years ago.

The Jerboans were (and mostly still are) humans, refugees from the surrounding lands. The Tabaht still held sway in much of that region, enslaving some and driving many from their homes. Hundreds crossed the mountains into a vast desert valley with a sparkling dome at its center (its exact center, by the way, which is a point of interest among those who study M'ra Jolios). Thinking it to be an oasis, and having nowhere else to turn, these refugees hazarded the enormous wasteland in hopes of a safe haven.

Most of these migrants were never heard from again. The wasteland surrounding M'ra Jolios is called the Lost Sea for a reason. It's more than just an enormous desert; ripples in space-time make it nearly impossible to traverse. You could walk in a straight line for weeks on end and find that you were still exactly where you started. Or you might end up on the other side of the valley without ever having gone near M'ra Jolios. Or you could wake up every morning in a different place than where you slept, never able to escape even if you went back the way you came. But with the right numenera (or a lot of luck), people could sometimes get through. That's how the first Jerboans arrived at M'ra Jolios.

Some say the Ghibra greeted the weary travelers and helped them establish the air-breather town outside the Oasis. Others say a man, who somehow lived among the Ghibra, welcomed the refugees and helped them survive with the aid of the Oasis. Still others suggest the founding Jerboans themselves taught the Ghibra about the world outside their bubble and proposed an alliance.

Regardless, the two towns Jerboa and M'ra Jolios have grown together for centuries. More refugees from other conflicts and disasters have come to Jerboa Town since, growing Jerboa's population much faster than M'ra Jolios, and as different methods have been found to safely traverse the Lost Sea, they have attracted a strong tourist trade. M'ra Jolios has grown more slowly, protecting their culture by controlling traffic into their environment. They also provide Jerboa with potable water, without which, the Jerboans would perish.